For Him is this only that whenever He intends any thing, then He says to it, ‘Be’ and it becomes at once. Therefore, Sanctified is He in Whose hand is the control of every thing, and towards Him, you will be returned. Surat Yasin, ayas 82-83.
Deep breaths, close your eyes and count to ten, drink some water…
No matter the level of their education, everyone has experienced some form of exam anxiety. If you’re like me, then its not just a case of the nerves, but a full blown panic attack. All the way through college, I used to feel extremely nervous whenever I had an upcoming exam, complete with trembling hands and a stimulated sympathetic system. However, I soon realized the anxiety that I was experiencing was doing much more harm than good, or to be specific, no good at all. I would miss easy questions that I should have known the answer too, but answered incorrectly due to the pressure that I put myself under. Not only would I leave the exam drained and worried about the outcome, but also with a pounding headache due to the tension. I soon reached a point where I needed to change things around, and alhamdulillah, I was able to find a way to overcome (most of) my exam anxiety.
First thing is to read Surat Yasin before taking the exam. While most people tend to recite the first few ayas while hoping that the cops didn’t catch them speeding, it’s actually extremely beneficial to read this beautiful chapter from the Qur’an as a way to calm your nerves. The two ayas quoted at the top are a balm to your agitated soul when you realize and are reassured that no matter how big this exam is, Allah SWT’s will is bigger.
Next is to take a few minutes to make sincere duaa that the exam will be smooth and easy for you and everyone else. If you have any Muslims in your class, mention their names. Not only will you get some good deeds inshaAllah, but the angels will say after the duaa “Wa lakka mithlu” (And for you as well). Its also a good idea to renew your intention that you are doing this for Allah SWT and to help the Ummah benefit from your knowledge. Duaa really helps you maintain your focus on your end goal and is a sure way to gain some peace in your heart.
Not only do you need to feed yourself spiritually, but actual nutrition plays a major role in exam stress as well. Try to sleep well the night before your exam; all nighters are never a good choice. I’ve never pulled an all-nighter, not even in med school, and cannot for the life of me see the benefit of depriving yourself of sleep the night before a test that requires as much mental power and awareness that you can give. Avoid drinking copious amounts of caffeine, and be sure to stay hydrated. Eat a good breakfast, and if the exam is later in the afternoon or evening, a healthy lunch. One thing I noticed last year is that my blood pressure dips slightly when I’m nervous before an exam, so I have a salty snack nearby in case I feel lightheaded. I also found out that eating fruit as part of my main meal before an exam makes me feel lighter and more energetic, much more than a candy bar that will give you a quick high but a longer lasting crash.
At the end of the day, it really matters how prepared you are for this exam. If you studied and know your material well, then you should be able to calm down at least a bit. It sounds easier said than done, and I know from my own personal experience that after taking hundreds of exams throughout your academic career, its still not unusual for the panic bug to strike again. As I write this, I mentally count down the six weeks left until my board exams, and begin to feel worried that I’m still far from ready. However, what I try to tell myself is that this exam is really just an exam. It’s not what’s going to guarantee my entrance into Jannah. There’s a bigger test that we are facing everyday of our lives, and the outcome of that is what is going to determine our success and our failure. Its a bit challenging to keep this is mind when we are absorbed in our academic pursuits, but its what we all, myself included, need to remind ourselves. And always remember, you do your best and leave it all to Allah SWT, because His plans are better than our dreams.